WANT to give yourself the best chance of victory following successive losses? Sack the coach.
It happened again in Townsville tonight with North Queensland sending a reminder to the rest of the competition that they’re not quite done with yet in 2013 following a 30-12 victory over South Sydney.
While Cowboys coach Neil Henry will see out the rest of the season, it would be fair to assume the resolve his players showed was directly related to the news during the week.
The question on many people’s lips – and that’s not just North Queensland fans now – is ‘where has this been all year?’
At times it was hard to tell which side was aiming for the minor premiership as the Cowboys raced in five tries to two in a commanding display.
“It’s been a tough year for us, but we really wanted to have a good performance for ourselves and our fans,” Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston told Fox Sports after the match.
The loss for the Rabbitohs could be compounded further with five-eighth John Sutton limping off the field in the shadows of halftime with a suspected ankle syndesmosis injury which could sideline him for six weeks.
Halfback Adam Reynolds was also in the wars, appearing to hyper-extend his left knee midway through the second half, but he did finish the match.
The Cowboys started the match in the best possible fashion after just five minutes when Brent Tate scored out wide. The home side appeared content to go to their right side for most of the half and they started early with fullback Matt Bowen’s lofted pass catching the South Sydney up-and-in defence out. Winger Kyle Feldt raced down the sideline, before drawing Nathan Merritt and passing on the inside to his centre partner to cross.
The Cowboys held on to their four-point lead for the majority of the half, with halfback Thurston and Bowen pulling the strings. Prop Matt Scott was outstanding again, providing a solid platform with James Tamou. The home side had all the ball for most of the first stanza and extended their lead to a converted try in the 32nd minute following Jeff Lima being placed on report for a late tackle on Thurston.
Things went from bad to worse for the Rabbitohs in the shadows of halftime first as five-eighth John Sutton limped from the field after getting his left ankle trapped underneath a tackle from Scott. The early diagnosis from the Rabbitohs was a syndesmosis injury similar to Bulldogs fullback Ben Barba which is expected to sideline him for six weeks.
Thurston then threw a perfect dummy in the shadows of the break which was fallen for by Isaac Luke. He drew Merritt and passed to interchange forward Tariq Sims who raced 40m to score under the posts, fending off South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds in the process. Despite having a glut of possession in the opening half, the Cowboys held a handy 12-point lead at the break.
The Cowboys improved on their 12-point lead – extending it to 30 before the visitors claimed two late tries.
“Our defense has been soft all year and they (Souths) can score a lot of points and it was good we held our line.
“It was a bit disappointing to let those last two tries in,” Thurston said.
Centre Kane Linnett bagged a double and was unlucky not to claim a hat-trick with the video referee controversially taking a try off him early in the second half when replays appeared inconclusive.
"I don't know how Kane didn't get that try. Should have been 18-0 earlier. It added to the boys' resolve," Henry said after the game.
And can the Cowboys realistically still make the finals?
“We’d love to, we’ve put ourselves in a tough spot, but hopefully we can finish on a high note,” Thurston said.
The Cowboys travel to Penrith next Sunday night aiming to keep the finals flame flickering while the Rabbitohs will sweat on scan results from both Reynolds and Sutton with a trip to Melbourne awaiting them on Friday.